Archive for December, 2017

Cattle Egret

Posted: December 29, 2017 in Birds, Natural History
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A small Egret which used to be very rare in Britain, but whose numbers have increased over recent years along with other members of the Egret family. It is estimated that the Uk wintering population is around 100 birds and a pair bred in the UK in 2008 and individual pairs have nested since then.

The name comes from the bird’s habit of feeding on insects and worms disturbed by the hooves of cattle and other livestock in fields.

This statue of a cordwainer, by Alma Boyes, was unveiled in 2002 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Cordwainer ward club. It was originally in the courtyard of St Mary-le-Bow but was moved after a couple of years to Watling St by St Mary Aldermary Church.

A Cordwainer was a shoemaker and the ward was named in the middle ages because this area of London was a traditional area for shoemaking in the city.

Boxing day brought a sunny day and two unexpected visitors to the garden. The first was a single Long-tailed Tit, which appeared for about 5 minutes around the feeder station before flying off. This is a species that is very uncommon in our garden (previous sightings up to 5 Nov/Dec 2013; 5 Oct 2015 and 1 in Jan 2016).

Long-tailed Tit

However, the most surprising visitor was a Red Admiral Butterfly which fluttered through the garden mid-morning. They are known to over-winter in dry places such as sheds and can be enticed out if the temperature is mild enough during the winter.

Although most butterfly species over-winter as an egg, pupa or caterpillar, some species can survive the winter months as adults. These butterflies don’t actually hibernate, instead they go into a dormant state where they shut down their metabolism to a very low level. Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Brimstone can all survive through the winter as adults, waiting for the spring when they can breed. Red Admirals only achieve a partial dormancy and so are the most likely species to be seen on the wing on warm winter days.

Red Admiral

 

 

 

Christmas Greetings

Posted: December 22, 2017 in Announcements
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I will not be posting on Monday or Tuesday so can I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas.

After leaving Hyde Park, Keith and I made our way to the ‘West End’  area to photograph the Christmas decorations that are traditional in this part of London.

South Moulton Street

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Brook Street

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New Bond Street

Oxford Street

 

Oxford Circus

Regent Street

Piccadilly Circus

Leicester Square

Trafalgar Square

Strand

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A pre-Christmas outing to central London with Keith. The morning’s target was to locate Little Owl in Hyde Park. I had been given directions to two roosting sites and so on arrival at the park, we set off to, the first of these. Once we located the correct tree, we soon found an owl sitting out on a branch.

It was good that we found this Owl being so co-operative as we never managed to locate the second roosting tree (later found this was due to my poor navigation and we had been looking in the wrong place!). Our target species found we spent the rest of the morning on the banks of the Serpentine / Longwater trying to find Red Crested Pochard or Mandarin Duck, both of which can be found here on occasion, but not today.

 

 

 

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull (Larus canus canus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Little Owl [sp] (Athene noctua)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Coal Tit [sp] (Periparus ater)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)

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Robert Scarlett was born in 1496 and became the gravedigger at Peterborough Cathedral. He lived to be 96 years old and may have been the model on whom Shakespeare based the character of the gravedigger in ‘Hamlet’. Near to the end of his life, he claimed to have buried 3 Queens – Katherine of Aragon, Mary of Scotland and his own wife Margaret. He was held in such esteem by the people of the town and the Cathedral that when he died he was buried inside the Cathedral, an honour granted to few people of his social status.

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Robert Scarlett’s tomb

A trip to the Kent coast with Bexley RSPB Group on a misty and cold morning. As we approached the reserve, a party of around 12 Swans were visible in a field. From the coach and in the early morning light identification was impossible, but I was later told by one of the volunteer wardens that they were a flock of Bewick Swans, which winter in this area. Arriving at the reserve the first stop was to try and find the roosting Long-Eared Owl which frequents the scrub at the back of the dipping pool. A long scan by many people drew a blank and as others headed off for the hides, I retreated to the visitor’s centre for a hot drink. Suitably refreshed I made my way back for another look for the owl. I was fortunate in that a group of birders from our group haa already located it and soon people were gathering to see the bird which was in vegetation but once found could clearly be seen. A Common Kingfisher paid a visit to the scrub whilst we were watching the Owl giving excellent views.

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Spot the Owl

With the days primary objective completed a circuit of the hides reveals the usual wintering waterfowl, although sadly there are no Smew, Goldeneye or Goosander to be seen. With the milder winters, these once regular winter visitors may become more of a rarity in future. Highlights include a number of good views of Common Kingfisher along with more common ducks and Geese including a single Brent Goose.

                 Common Kingfisher, Northern Shoveller and a Western Marsh Harrier

 

                                   Great Cormorants and Flight of Geese (Canada and Greylag Geese)

At the end of the afternoon, a small group of us walk out to the ARC hide at the farthest extent of the accessible part of the reserve. We were well rewarded for this trek as on the way we found some Tree Sparrows on a feeder and on the ARC pit we got good views of a Great White Egret and on the return walk to the visitor centre saw a Western Cattle Egret fly into one of the small pools by the reserve entrance.

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Great White Egret

 

An excellent day.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Brant Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Bewick’s Swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Egret [sp] (Ardea alba)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull (Larus canus canus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Long-eared Owl [sp] (Asio otus)
Common Kingfisher [sp] (Alcedo atthis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow [sp] (Passer montanus)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Fined – for Kissing in Public!

Posted: December 15, 2017 in History
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Even into the 20th century, some states in the USA had laws making it illegal for couples to kiss in public places. In the early 20th century, one prominent Bostonian was arrested and fined for kissing his wife whilst walking in the street, whilst another story tells of a Sea Captain returning from a long voyage greeting his wife on the port quayside and getting carried away in the moment kissing her only to be fined for doing so. A number of stories then began to circulate that there were plans to extend these laws across all the states and a campaign was launched to oppose these changes (although whether these plans actually existed or where an invention of the newspapers is a question to be asked?).

The US was not alone in this, the city of Milan also forbade public kissing with a fine equivalent to 12 shillings (approx £40 in today’s terms).

This led one English Newspaper columnist (17th December 1902)  to comment that if such a law was implemented in the UK we could do away with the need for income tax to finance the country!

 

 

Boston Tea Party

Posted: December 14, 2017 in History, USA
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By W.D. Cooper -“Boston Tea Party.”, The History of North America. 1789.Engraving.  Library of Congress. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=462709

The Tea Act of 1773 imposed a tax on imported tea, designed by the British Government to aid the financial failings of The East India Company. This was very controversial and unpopular amongst the people of the British Colonies. At the end of November 1773, the first tea ship of the season arrived in Boston Harbour. The locals refused to unload the cargo and demanded that it return home together with its cargo. On December 16, the ship was still in dock and a crowd formed at the Old South Meeting House, among its leaders was Samuel Adams. Angry, the crowd moved towards the docks and dozens of men boarded the 3 tea ships then in the harbour and dumped hundreds of chests of tea into the water. In Boston, it was seen as striking a blow for the liberty of the colonies. In Britain however, it was regarded as lawless vandalism. The consequences were hard as the port of Boston was closed until the city had repaid the cost of the tea and as a result of their action all power was taken away from town meetings and juries and placed in hands of the Governor. Changes were also made to the legal code which enabled people to be tried in loyalist towns regardless of where a crime had been committed – making prosecution more likely. Ultimately these acts drove an even wider wedge between the colonists and the British authorities and made war between the two more likely.

Copy of lithograph by Sarony & Major, 1846 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons